Dispute – March 27th – Alleged Intimidation at Denaby Main (1)

March 1885

oMexborough and Swinton Times March 27

Alleged Intimidation at Denaby Main

Daniel McGrath, Denaby, was summoned on five charges;

for intimidating Enoch Sheldon, deputy of Denaby, and also for using violence to complainant and following him about in a disorderly manner; also for intimidating Henry Cooke, deputy, Denaby; and following him about in a disorderly manner.

Mr Barker, barrister, instructed by Mr F.Parker Rhodes, appeared for the company; the defendant was represented by Mr Hall

in opening the case Mr Barker said he appeared against Daniel McGrath, and the information on the cases of which there were five, were laid under 7th section of 38 and 39 Victoria, chapter 36.

The reason why there were so large in number of summonses was because it was decided by the bench at Rotherham on a former occasion that under the Act there should be separate summonses under each subsection. He was not quite sure whether it was strict law, but it had been so decided. He proposed to go on with the charge against McGrath laid by Enoch Sheldon, for using violence to Sheldon on 6 March.

The bench would probably recollect that before 1875 a much more stringent Act of Parliament had been enforced against combinations of workmen. That was thought to bear somewhat severely upon the men, the act of 1875 was a repealing and an amending act. They would see that under the seventh section to which he called their attention, there were certain things which were set out in subsections of unlawful, if they were done with the purpose of compelling a person to abstain from doing a thing which he had a legal right to do.

In that case the information was that McGrath for the purpose of compelling Enoch Sheldon to abstain from doing a certain act which he had a legal right to do – from working in the Denaby Main colliery – did unlawfully use violence to Sheldon. That was the charge against McGrath.

It was familiar to the Bench that was some time past there have been a strike at Denaby Main colliery. The men had ceased to work, and the colliery are been what was called “set down” and the coal getters and the person in that interests had no longer been working. Of course in the interests of the owners of the colliery, and even in the interests of the men themselves, it was absolutely necessary that certain things should be done from day-to-day in the mine – such as keeping open the airways, propping the roofs, and feeding the horses which were at the bottom of the pit.

The servants of the Company who were not on strike, and who had had nothing to do with the dispute, add in the discharge of their duties going down the pit from day-to-day to do the necessary work in the working of the colliery. Latterly the persons on strike, and a number of boys and women also, living at Denaby, had resented this action, and had been in the habit of mobbing the men as they came away from their employment.

The complainant Enoch Sheldon, was what was called a deputy at the mine. Yet been to his work on 6 March as usual, and he and a number of other men but also been down the mine came out somewhere about 2 o’clock. When they got to the pit bank they found a large crowd of men, women, children and boys, of whom the defendant was one, ready to meet them.

Sheldon started off to walk home with a man called Cooke. Cooke went with him for about half a mile and then left it. During the whole of the time they were walking from the pit Hill to Sheldon’s house they were followed by the crowd, McGrath been amongst them; they were hooted and called by the usual name “Black sheep.” Stones were thrown at them, and he would prove distinctly that McGrath was seen to throw at least three stones, or things of that nature. He began by throwing a piece of the bottom of a jug which almost hit Cork and went between the heads of the two men. After Cooke had separated from Sheldon, McGrath continued to throw cinders and pieces of brick, one of which struck Sheldon between the shoulders. He got inside his house and barricaded the door, and even when he was inside is out looting went on outside and stones were thrown at the door.

He will prove that McGrath committed the offence beyond all possibility of doubt, and it will be for the Bench to say what they thought ought to be done. That was fortunately not a case in which any serious personal injury had been sustained, although this might have happened if the stones had struck Sheldon in a more dangerous place. He suggested that that was the thin end of the wedge, and if offences of that description were allowed to go unpunished or without adequate punishment result would be very serious, and it would be a direct encouragement to proceed to further acts of violence.

The company he represented hoped that the Bench would do what they considered to be right in the matter, and so to put an effectual stop to any scenes of that kind at the Denaby Main Colliery.

He called Enoch Sheldon, a deputy employed at the colliery, and at number 31, Rossington Street, Denaby. This witness said there had been a strike at the Denaby Main Colliery for many weeks. Is duty as a deputy was to go into the mine keep the airways open and see that the roofs do not fall in. He went down the mine as usual on 6 March, and came back at two. He lived 10 minutes walk from the pit bank, at a distance of half a mile. He did not see anyone on the pit bank, but when he got to the colliery gate, this is a between 80 and 100 yards from the bank, he saw a crowd of from two to three hundred, composed of men, women and boys. A man named Henry Cooke was with him. They pass through the gates, and were walking towards the homes. The crowd shouted after them and stones were thrown; the defendant was amongst the crowd. Several persons in the crowd shouted “Ba! Ba! Black sheep.” The defendant threw missiles at them; the first time he threw a piece of pot, which missed them.

Cook left him before he got to his house, and after they had separated the piece of brick was thrown at complainant which struck him between the shoulders. He told the defendant to be quiet, but he still continued to shout and use bad language. After witness got indoors McGrath threw at the door twice. He did not see the defendants throw anything besides a piece of pot and a brick. The door of his house was not quite close; it was open about a foot. McGrath threw something at the door twice and complainant sent his servant for the police. The crowd stayed near the house for two or three minutes then went away; they did not wait until the police arrived.

By Mr Hall: there was a great crowd of people. He was prepared to pledge his oath that the defendant threw stones; a sign throw stones. He saw the piece which struck in between the shoulders, as it was turning around the defendant threw it. When the defendant threw at the door he (complainant) was standing at the window and so him throw the stones, although there was a crowd of people there. One of his party did not say “let’s have another cheer,” and the crowd did not shout hurrah stop the stone might avert; although it did not hurt him very much indeed he felt it at the time.

By the chairman: McGrath was a pony driver employed at the colliery before the strike. Witness worked at the colliery before the strike, is still continued to work.

Henry Cooke, a deputy employed at the colliery said he was with Sheldon on 6 March. He knew the defendant, but did not see him do anything. While he was with Sheldon a piece of a pot was thrown which just misses an, but you do not see who threw it. He saw McGrath throw when in the midst of the crowd.

Priscilla Taylor, wife of John Taylor, Sadler, Denaby, said she lived next door but one to Sheldon. She recollected Sheldon coming home on 6 March. There was a crowd of persons with him, and there was a great deal of shouting going on.

Sarah White, a servant employed by Sheldon said she recollected the complainant coming home on the sixth. She saw McGrath throw a stone which struck Sheldon on the back. She knew McGrath, and was surely through stone. Afterwards two stones hit the door, and these stones were also thrown by the defendant.

Mr Hall said the defendant was not charged with throwing stones at the door, and this was only brought forward to prejudice him.

The witness Smith in her cross examination by Mr Hall, said she was engaged in cleaning the bedroom window when McGrath threw the stones. The crowd was behind, as she was cleaning with her face to the window.

Police Constable Kendall stated that on the sixth inst. he was sent for, but when he arrived at Sheldon’s house the crowd had dispersed. He saw McGrath most crowd which was following the very step it is from the pit gate along the road.

Mr Hall, for the defence said the question was whether the Bench were satisfied with the evidence for the prosecution, for that was a very serious charge made under an Act of Parliament which give them considerable powers to punish. The evidence that McGrath threw the stone was not confirmed by anyone at all, it rested entirely with that given by the complainant himself. The girl said she saw stones thrown, but they had not to deal with the stones thrown at the door with the stone thrown at the complainant. The girl had her back to the crowd as she was cleaning the window, and it was impossible that she could have seen through the stone. It must be remembered that she was a servant of the man who laid the information. If the law allowed the defendant to do so you will tell the Bench that he did not throw anything, and therefore it would be a case of oath against oath. The cook or 20 people were in the crowd to say that the lad never threw a stone, but his calling the witnesses into court would do no good. It was clear enough that the defendant was amongst the crowd but that was not the charge, and he would ask the Bench to say that they thought the defendant, who was only 13 years of age, was not guilty. It was a pity that there were such crowds, as such shouting and cheering, but he saw before the finish decays the Bench would be of opinion that there was not much disorder, there was more cheering than anything else. They were merely cheering each other and seem to be friendly. He asked the Bench to say that there was a doubt in the case. If, however, they considered that the offence was proved the very fact of the defendants having been summoned will be a warning to him and prevent him from mixing with a crowd in future.

A very small fine would meet the justice of the case. That was the first summons, so far as the dispute was concerned, that had been brought before the magistrates. The strike had gone on for many weeks, and there had been no cases of disorderly conduct or anything else brought before the Bench. He was sure the Bench would take that into consideration and look on it as one of the circumstances which would lead them to give the lad the benefit of the doubt.

If they consider the case proved he hoped they would at all events treat the case leniently.

The Chairman said the Bench had decided to convict in that case.

Mr Barker said if that were the case he would not go on with the other charges, the facts were the same.

Mr Hall, on behalf of the men, expresses the. He hoped, by the exercise of a little kindness and moderation on each side, there would be a settlement arrived at.

The Chairman, addressing the defendant, said he was charged using violence to Sheldon, not merely as an assault, but in order to prevent him from doing what he had a perfect and legal right to do; that was to work and to do his duty for the company. What the Bench understood was that the defendant, with others recently employed by the Denaby Main company, were on strike, and that they refused to work on the terms which the company had offered. They had a legal right to do that, but directly they try to prevent others from working they infringed the law and rendered themselves liable to a very heavy penalty, not merely for using violence, but merely in following people and annoying them and prevented them from doing their work. The penalty which the law inflicted for that offence was a very heavy fine of £20, or three months imprisonment. They would not do anything of the kind to the defendant on that occasion. It was the first case which are being brought before the Bench. The company did not wish to press the charge, but they must in their own defence protect their workmen.

They had decided to put a penalty of £1 and £1 5s costs on the defendant. The Bench hoped that will prove a warning to the defendant and others, that they would learn that those who were working for the company must be protected.